What can other fashion retailers learn and adopt from Amazon’s runaway success? Katharine Biggs at parcelLab offers five tips to emulate the online retail giant’s success.
What has Amazon got that fashion retailers haven’t? It doesn’t have physical stores, it doesn’t have the ability to try before you buy, it doesn’t have the tools that allow for that human interaction and emotional connection that a physical store can offer… but one massive advantage it does have is that it owns the entire online retail experience from start to finish.
But what has this got to do with fashion, I hear you ask? Well, believe it or not, according to The Industry.Fashion’s new ‘The Index’ tracking tool, Amazon is the preferred fashion destination among pureplay online retailers (by a huge margin) with 89% of Britons having visited the online store and 20% of those making a purchase. So how is it then that consumers’ preferred fashion destination isn’t a fashion specialist at all, but Amazon?
The original online retailer, now the giant of them all, is simply far too powerful on every operational level – from speed of delivery to offering a wide variety of delivery options (same-day, next-day, specific day/time, at home or local collection point) – that no other retailer can come close in the operational stakes. So how then can fashion retailers compete and ensure that their customers aren’t taking their business elsewhere?
The online retail giant’s success isn’t just down to its size, it’s also because it owns and controls the entire online shopping experience from the moment a customer enters the website, through search, checkout, delivery and returns. It’s clear that retailers work tirelessly to make it as easy as possible to buy from them, refining the searching and buying experience as much as possible – so customer acquisition isn’t necessarily the problem, but where there’s a real neglected opportunity is in the customer retention part of the shopping journey.
It’s too easy for retailers to lose control of the customer journey at the point of which the customer has made a purchase. They receive their dispatch confirmation thanking them for their custom, often with a carrier tracking link, and then they are left to their own devices to navigate the rest of their experience through the shipping process. And this is all too true for fashion retailers in particular, with 93% of the UK’s top 100 fashion retailers (parcelLab’s UK E-Commerce Shipping Study 2020: Fashion Edition) ending communication with their customers immediately after they have checked out, handing future communications over to their logistics partner, meaning that they are not only missing out on a prime stage in the customer journey but also a vital marketing channel.
Amazon, on the other hand, controls this entire process and by doing so makes it seamless and easy for its customers, keeping them informed of their order’s progress, answering any queries and making it simple – and free – to returns goods. But what sets brands apart from competitors in the first place is personality, brand values and points of difference– and this needs to be brought to life at every stage of the customer journey to ensure that customers continue to keep shopping with you. Here are five quick tips to help fashion retailers stand out against Amazon and other rivals:
1. Prioritise post-checkout: It’s one thing to make a sale but another to keep that customer coming back again. You need to draw them back in by exciting them in order to build loyalty and inspire repeat purchases. Own the whole communications process from start to finish to build brand loyalty and keep customers coming back for more.
2. Have full transparency: This means that you can see the entire post-purchase journey and can stay in control of what’s going on. Your couriers are probably great at delivery, but if you only rely on their reports for insight into how your customers are experiencing the shipping journey, you’re likely to be missing out on key moments. Make sure you’re offering the best shipping experience by sharing relevant information and content to help inform customers during this phase.
3. Keep your customers happy and informed: If you’re offering great products at a great price and the delivery doesn’t work, your customers are unlikely to come back. Products are becoming increasingly interchangeable, as are prices, so you need to make sure you make your customers happy. Issues can occur with deliveries for many reasons and it’s how you handle these problems through customer communication that will make the difference.
4. Own the entire experience: The key is to be pre-emptive if anything goes wrong – and you can only do this if you control post-purchase communication. If there’s a problem, you need to immediately communicate this to your customers before they find out themselves, apologise and tell them how you’re sorting it out. This can help avoid losing customers and getting bad reviews. It also saves on customer service costs! It’s about showing your customers you care and making them feel special.
5. Use your brand to its full advantage: This is arguably the biggest differentiator you have against Amazon. People don’t necessarily buy off Amazon because they like them, they do it because it’s easy and convenient and it just works. Using your brand to build a relationship with customers on an emotional level to show that you understand them, that you care, and that you will support them is something where you can clearly differentiate yourself not just from Amazon, but also your more direct competitors. When you do that really well it does not matter if a parcel is taking one day longer than Amazon or the shipping cost is 10p higher, your customers will not mind if they like you.
All this – and more – is possible if you own the post-purchase experience and provide branded, personalised customer communications which show your customers that you care. You might not be able to compete with Amazon on an operational level but there are plenty of ways to set yourself apart with customers and ensure they have the best possible shopping journey with you.
By Katharine Biggs
Content and Marketing Manager